Exhibitions, News & Commentary, Visual Arts

Is it Oils? Midnight Oil archive goes on show at Arts Centre, Melbourne

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Will the new Midnight Oil exhibition do for the Arts Centre Melbourne what its runaway hit Kylie exhibition did?
The Making of Midnight Oil free exhibition opens at the Arts Centre Melbourne’s Gallery from November 14 and runs until February 28. It promises a survey of “the iconic band’s impact on social and cultural history across a 40 year period” by showing stage props, instruments, protest banners, hand written lyrics, photographs and posters sourced from public and private collections as well as the band’s own archives.
The famous banner the band displayed outside Exxon’s New York headquarters proclaiming ‘Midnight Oil Makes You Dance, Exxon Oil Makes Us Sick’ will be displayed, along with the band’s 2000 Sydney Olympics closing ceremony ‘Sorry Suits’. The suits sent the band’s apology for Australia’s treatment of Aboriginal people around the globe, as did the shots on the big screen of an unimpressed looking John and Janette Howard.
Last year Daily Review‘s James Rose nominated the band’s 1982 US Forces as one of Australia’s top ten political rock songs.
The exhibition was developed by the Manly Art Gallery and curated by Ross Heathcote in collaboration with Midnight Oil songwriter and drummer Rob Hirst.
“The members of Midnight Oil would challenge themselves at every turn with the self-imposed question “Is it Oils?” — which meant: is it authentic, uncompromising, relevant and made with integrity and energy? Working closely with the band on this exhibition, we have tried to live up to this spirit and way of working. The more I have come to know about Midnight Oil, the more I respect their mighty achievements,” said Heathcote.
The exhibition also includes three specially commissioned film sequences by filmmaker Robert Hambling on the making of the band’s 1982 album 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1.
The Arts Centre Melbourne exhibitions have included shows devoted to Peter Allen, Nick Cave, Reg Livermore, Rock Chicks: Women in Australian Music and AC/DC, but none has had the impact of its Kylie show which toured to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2007 and stands as one of the V and A’s best attended exhibitions ever.

Peter Garrett at the Tanelorn Festival, 1981, photograph by Rob Draper, Courtesy of the Midnight Oil Archive


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